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Monday, 14 February, 2000, 12:46 GMT
Death hits The Simpsons
The Simpsons family
The Simpsons: The cult series is now 10 years old
Maude Flanders, God-fearing neighbour of The Simpsons, has been killed off in a special episode of the cartoon hit - ending weeks of speculation.

Millions of US viewers tuned in to find out the identity of the character after it was announced last month that a member of the Springfield community was going to be killed off on Sunday night.
Simpsons' character Maude Flanders
Maude died tragically
Maude, wife of Ned and proud mother of Rod and Todd, was the hot favourite to go - especially as the episode was titled Alone Again, Natura-Diddly.

"Diddly" is one of Ned's chirpy buzzwords, while it had also been reported that actress Maggie Rowell, who voices Maude, has left the show.

The episode, which will not be shown in the UK until May, could also been one of the most watched ever, a handy ploy for the Fox network during the February "sweeps" - a key ratings period used to help set advertising rates on US stations.

Maude died in an accident at a motor racing track and the official Simpsons website opens with her rising up the page with angel wings.

Fans' reaction

The message board already features comments from Simpsons fans. One loved the way the epsiode "explored, with some amount of realism, how people feel when they lose a loved one". Another blasted: "It was not only unfunny, it was downright sad."
Simpsons graveyard
Maude Flanders: the Simpsons' neighbour
Bleeding Gums Murphy: jazz musician and mentor to Lisa
Family shrink Dr Marvin Monroe
Beatrice Simmons: girlfriend to Grampa Simpson
Frank "Grimy" Grimes: Homer's colleague at the nuclear power plant
The majority seemed to think it was the best episode of the season so far, though one likened watching the show - which celebrated its 10th anniversary last month, to going to the dentist and thought the whole series should be allowed to die in peace.

Last month, executive producer Mike Scully admitted: "We're in our 11th season and we're always looking for new ways to shake up the show a little and do something that might open up new story possibilities."

He added: "We thought it would be interesting to show how the surviving characters cope with the death and maybe take them in a new direction," Scully said. "Plus, it's sweeps. "

See also:

11 Mar 99 | Entertainment
Murdoch makes Simpsons debut
13 Jan 00 | Entertainment
Wahooo! Simpsons celebrate 10 years
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